upset to recently read a description of the American press corps in
Vietnam in the Living section of the Boston Globe which ran an article
on a documentary in progress that captures "the protagonists --
male and female -- in all their tough, boozy, bawdy glory."
Shame on you, Mark Jurkowitz, for being so careless. He probably had
Tim Page in mind, an Englishman, who for all his wild excesses, has
done fine work. Many of us were indeed different and none more so than
the late Larry Burrows who not only was an astoundingly gifted photographer
but an elegant human being. All the war is in his work.
"Larry was a gentleman, an open and generous man who always knew
the correct way to behave," said Philip Jones Griffiths, the famous
Magnum photographer who knew Burrows when they were in Vietnam. Both
"He was a rare bird to be found in that situation, in that milieu,"
he added, "He always knew the risk, he was the consummate professional.
He only appeared foolhardy at times but he was more experienced than
most professional soldiers. It always made sense to ask him what the
of us can see him so many years later: a tall rangy man who would help
another photographer or a GI in extremis. Jones Griffiths is beginning
to sound a little sad talking about his old friend.
"He never wore a helmet," he said. "They get in your
way if you want to take a vertical picture."
Not your average boozy bawdy type at all.
I have a tiny memory of Burrows which I carry like a charm. It was an
ordinary day in the long war and five or six of us were on a chopper
going to I Corps. He was the most distinctive of all of us, the young
face showing deep lines. He always wore a small face towel around his
neck to blot the sweat and hold the dust. It was nothing that he said
that makes the memory important. It is the way he kept looking out of
the chopper at the beautiful countryside below: the shining rice paddies,
the range of greens, the people. It was as if this was the first time
he had seen Vietnam when he had been photographing the war for years.
One other man was reading a paperback and two others were half asleep.
No one was paying attention except Burrows. Keep looking I used to say
to myself, trudging through the long war that went on and on. Keep looking.
It was what this exceptional man had taught me.
© Gloria Emerson